UPDATE 1-Canada's Syncrude project faces operational challenges -Suncor

Thu Oct 29, 2015 12:41pm EDT
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(Adds details on Syncrude, Suncor bid, quotes)

By Nia Williams

CALGARY, Alberta Oct 29 (Reuters) - The Syncrude oil sands project is experiencing "operational challenges" that could be resolved if Suncor is successful in its hostile takeover bid for Canadian Oil Sands, Suncor Energy Chief Executive Steve Williams said on Thursday.

Suncor, which has a 12 percent stake in the joint venture Syncrude mining and upgrading project, made a C$4.3 billion ($3.27 billion) offer this month for Canadian Oil Sands , the biggest stakeholder.

During a third-quarter earnings call, Williams said Syncrude has been running at around 60 percent of capacity throughout October because of problems restarting after the facility cut production following a fire in late August.

The project in northern Alberta has the capacity to produce around 350,000 barrels per day of light synthetic crude oil.

There were issues with the sulphur recovery unit and some pumps in that system, and repairs were completed over the last week, Williams said, adding that the plant is now starting to move back up to more normal rates.

Syncrude is operated by another joint venture partner, Imperial Oil. Williams said he expected Imperial to continue to run the project if the Suncor takeover succeeds, but added that there were opportunities to improve performance.

"If we were to move from 12 percent to 49 percent (ownership), and we would start to help Imperial with a more significant resource assistance, we're confident that through that support to the operator, we can see significant improvements," Williams said.   Continued...